TESTED: Home Automation – Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, Lutron Caseta, Wink Hub, Staples Connect, Logitech Harmony Home Hub, and INSTEON Hub

For years Hollywood has teased us with fantasy versions of the future.  They depict wild concepts such as flying cars, deep-space travel, and a common presence of artificial intelligence.  Most days it seems like we are barely inching along towards our realization of many of those digital day-dreams.  But as this blog post shall prove, smart-homes are becoming less movie-magic, and more reality than ever before.

Over a decade ago my folks built a home full of the latest in home lighting automation using Lutron Radio RA.  Lutron is now on their second generation RA2, as they continue to supply this market segment with high quality options.  The spectrum of home automation products has grown to include such items as window blinds/shades, smart thermostats, light bulbs, home security, motion sensors, cameras, smoke/fire detectors, and many other “intelligent/connected” products.  All of these can be had with wired/wireless connectivity that go beyond the old, stand-alone products they once were.

For years I’ve wanted to dabble in the automated lighting arena, but always felt the costs were too prohibitive.  It made sense for my folks, because the house was being custom built to their specifications.  But to retrofit my 58 year old home never fit my budget, at least not for the level of quality I wanted from the products. For years there have been cheap options, but never ones that met with my relatively high expectations, especially when compared to my benchmark of the Lutron system down the road at the parents dwelling.  Today that is no longer the case, with a plethora of cost-effective options to choose from.

NOTE: This is one of the more PICTURE-HEAVY blog posts that I’ve made.  This was an attempt to help capture the essence of all the various iOS apps and give you, the reader, a better feeling of what the app felt like inside.  As is always the case, feel free to click any photo here to view a LARGER version of that image.  Enjoy!

UPDATE (DEC/2014)- After you finish reading this blog post, be sure to check out my FOLLOW-UP ARTICLE HERE!

UPDATE (OCT/2015)- And then when you’re done with that, be sure to check out my SMART LIGHTING COMPARISON POST!

UPDATE (NOV/2015)- As we head into the 2015 holiday season we’ve added a HUGE SMART HOME COMPARISON! – Check it out, everything from Apple HomeKit, to Samsung SmartThings, to Wink Connected Home Hub,  and much, much more!

ABOUT MY TESTING & COMPARISONS

After years of running lamps on manual outlet timers I finally took my first step towards automation just over a year ago.  By purchasing a set of Belkin WeMo Switch devices we found ourselves able to automate things like our fish tank lights, or a lamp in our living room.  (See my in-depth WeMo review HERE)  Although this kept me happy for over a year it has been hard for me to ignore all the new devices cropping up, as well as the lowering cost of entry to add more goodies to my arsenal.

So where we begin then is just that– an automated fish tank and lamp, and a desire for more.  At the core of this was essentially two primary goals.  First was the geek in me wanting to explore, test, and learn about the options available to consumers.  Secondly was the more practical goal/need of wanting to ditch the existing lamp we had, and instead automate the fixed lights in that room.  Any additional robotization in our home would be viewed as purely an added bonus.

Based on what I saw during my shopping at local big box stores it seems like there are four primary items that ring most popular in this growing niche.  First and most obviously is lighting, primarily in smart bulbs, though increasingly so with in-wall switch options.  Second would be smart thermostats, where some stores have dedicated displays now for units such as those from NEST and Honeywell.  Third comes in the form of intelligent door locks, such as the Kwikset Kevo unit.  And finally home security, ranging from cameras, to smoke alarms, to motion sensors, and even door open/close monitors.  Other lesser options like automated window blinds and garage door openers exist (and I’ll talk more about those later), but aren’t as popular as these four groups.

SIDEBAR: When our old home thermostat gave up the ghost last year we upgraded to a NEST unit and have loved it ever since.  So I guess you could say we’ve already had some home automation in place, though we use the schedule rather than home sensing, due to the “not so visible” placement of our unit (with regards to where we reside in the home).  We also already have a wired alarm system that uses cellular service to communicate with a monitoring company. Sadly integrating other systems with that alarm are still in their infancy stages.

TESTED DEVICES

Below are the items tested, listed in order of purchase and review.  Rather than lull you to sleep with more boring paragraphs of text (because trust me I could go ON and ON about these units)– I’ve decided to utilize an alternate method here.  See below for bullet points that hit the key aspects of each unit, explaining the pros/cons in a more itemized list under each heading.  I’ve included links at the end of each device to the item that was tested, so you can easily pick one up if you want to try it out for yourself.  Enjoy!

Belkin WeMo

  • Started out last year with 2 plug-in outlets (Fish tank, living room lamp) (Old review HERE)
  • Used for automatic (Sunrise/Sunet) fish lighting, and for morning/evening home illumination (auto on, auto off)
  • Also worked nice for travel, being out of town, as it made things appear as if someone was home
  • Previously attempted to add Belkin WeMo Light Switch, but unable to use (NO NEUTRAL WIRE in our older home switch boxes)
  • Desire for additional home automation (lighting, etc) caused me to go shopping for new/additional items
  • FINAL THOUGHTS:  Belkin hardware covers a broad spectrum of home automation products, including their recently release of their new Belkin WEMO LED Lighting (bulbs).  My first thought was to stay within the WeMo family, adding to my existing outlets.  However since their in-wall switches require a neutral wire that my home wiring lacks it just couldn’t happen.  Their new plug-in hub (for bulbs) has huge potential thanks to its small compact size.  If you like things simple and easy, I’d start with Belkin, especially if you have newer home wiring that would allow these modern switches.  Features and functions on these devices are good bang for your buck and come recommended if they’ll work for you.
  • HARDWARE TESTED:

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Philips Hue Bulbs & LED Strips

  • Large range of smart bulb offerings including:  Hue (Color), LUX (White), LED Strips (Color), and various other “friends of hue” goodies
  • Although I found the color-picking aspect of their app to be strange, the app itself was quick, reliable, and overall never let me down.  It supported “fade in/out” during scheduled events which was nice
  • Hue bulbs require a small wired hub (included in the starter kits)
  • Biggest downside here remains high cost of the color bulbs at $60 each for the colored units
  • White LUX bulbs are competitive at $30, except when compared to new GE Link bulbs ($16)
  • Although “smart bulbs” sound nice on paper, I quickly realized I wanted to replace light switches, not just bulbs, making this fun to play with by not the ultimate answer for my needs
  • This lead me to being looking at a Hub that would aggregate both products (Philips + Belkin), plus whatever switches I would buy too
  • Lastly, the lack of Sunrise/Sunset timing for the Philips Hue hub meant it wouldn’t be in sync with the fish tank controlled by the Belkin software
  • FINAL THOUGHTS: There is room for Philips to enhance the UX a bit as it lacked some of the intuitive nature the competitors offered.  And they may need to lower the prices to try to remain competitive in this fierce, growing market.  Still, these are a good add-on to your home automation system but not all inclusive (just bulbs here).  No outlets, no wall switches, just a spring-board to wanting more.  I cannot in good faith recommend the Philips Hue when there are now cheaper options on the market, that integrate better with the hubs you will read about below.  Philips makes a good product, but it just doesn’t play well enough with the other hubs/etc.  And the color features are more a gimmick than anything.  Reliable, quality product but more a toy than a true home automation product here.
  • ITEMS TESTED:

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Lutron Caseta – SWITCHES/DIMMERS (See later for hub testing)

  • Lutron offers in-wall light switches that will work without a neutral wire (one of the few on the market) and also is self sensing (load vs line)
  • Build quality is top notch, and it uses RF signal on Lutron’s Clear Connect protocols to communicate
  • They also offer plug-in wall modules (for lamps) – These were perfect for our fish tank application– able to replace the WeMo so that all outlets AND swtiches were able to use one single protocol
  • Personally I prefer in-wall switches over bulbs (like the Philips) — They are better because there is no need to leave your lights physically “switched on” — Also no worries that a visitor might accidentally turn the switch off and effectively discontinue your automation from working
  • High entry cost at nearly $60 for each switch you need might make this hard for many to swallow/afford
  • Lutron offers a hub that will control their Lutron Caseta devices but for $120 it is cost prohibitive compared to the Wink/Staples units — It is also limited to their Lutron Clear Connect protocols only (compatible bulbs are coming soon)
  • At this point I contemplated buying the Lutron Hub ($120) but it only works on their protocols, so it would not work with the Philips Hue bulbs I wanted to try to keep if I could
  • FINAL THOUGHTS:  Industry leader in hardware, Lutron as a brand is a personal favorite.  If all you care about are lighting and blinds, and you’re a Lutron fan, this is a good one-stop shop.  But again, no bulbs (yet) — and no expansion for non-lighting products down the road that aren’t their own brand.  Perhaps they will add more alliances in the future.  Once their bulbs come out this unit can fight head-to-head against INSTEON for a closed environment choice.  And as you’ll see later, the Lutron switches beat theirs.  For this section I would give the switches/dimmers a top notch rating (see later for using them with their hub).
  • HARDWARE TESTED:

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Wink Hub

  • Spotted this sold along side of the Lutron switches, caught my eye and was a good price ($50)
  • Compatible with a huge list of supported devices making the Wink hub one of the best, matched only by Staples Connect Hub and Revolv units for functionality
  • Setup was simple, but I had issues getting the hub setup and to recognize the Lutron devices (took multiple attempts) — Tech support told me to avoid having the hub too close to your router during setup that can help
  • Sidebar: Tech support was also aware of MANY bugs, which gave me a general feeling that while this device is powerful, it is certainly still not without a fair share of faults and growing pains right now
  • Has built-in support for Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Lutron ClearConnect, and Kidde
  • Worked with my Philips Hue, but note that it requires their hub is on the same local network as your hub, and control of the Philips Hue is limited
  • Worked with my Lutron switches, which connect to the Wink with no extra hub required (very nice!)
  • My Issue #1 – No Sunrise/Sunset provisions – This is something I need for the fish tanks & also desire elsewhere
  • My Issue #2 – Shortcuts/Robots can NOT utilize the Philips Hue bulbs — You can turn them on manually, but you cannot automate them as part of a “scene” that you create
  • To resolve the second issue I purchased some of the new GE Link Bulbs which worked flawlessly.  They linked immediately and easily to the Wink hub, and allowed for dimming soft white light in my laundry room and near my TV
  • From a standpoint of low-cost bulbs the $15 GE Link bulbs are the best option out there, but take note you need either a GE Link hub or a Wink hub to really get the most out of them (such as automation beyond just your phone)
  • FINAL THOUGHTS: One of the longest list of compatible devices, enough radios to compete with the Revolv yet at 1/6th the price.  Future NEST compatibility and this device may end up being the one to have!  But for me the sunrise/sunset issue and the flaky setup caused me to keep looking.  Additionally, it would miss light commands at times.  This meant coming home to find the auto lights not turned on.  Or coming home from work to find the auto-off in the morning didn’t run.  OR even just sitting there with the iPhone app and tapping off and watching the light not react.  For MOST people this is still my top pick of ALL the options out there, mainly because it brings the lowest cost plus the most compatibility to 3rd party items.  If you want to aggregate a bunch of different units this is the best unit on the market (even after I did all my testing I kept this unit going because it was worth playing with and giving a chance to keep me content and fix some of the lag/bug issues)– probably the best unit for MOST users right here, or at least tied with the next unit on this list.
  • HARDWARE TESTED:

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Staples Connect Hub

  • Current hub is made by Linksys (white) – A second generation unit from D-Link (black) is due out soon (now has been released and can be found HERE)
  • Wireless protocols supported include Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee and Lutron, (Missing BT/Kidde when compared to Wink but those are rumored to be coming in the next generation unit)
  • Out of all the units tested this one had the worst overall interface, but it was a bit more reliable than the Wink hardware
  • Personally I hated the color-picker for Philips Hue bulbs (poor interface with 3 sliders and poor visual feedback on color)
  • Loading the app was slow to connect to the hub both local and remotely at times compared to Wink
  • Once setup you are able to move hub into a wireless mode, and avoid needing it plugged into router (bonus!) — (NOTE: If you need more network ports I suggest this unit from TP-LINK)
  • Activities that start/end at a set time can only be set in 15-minute increments, not exact times of day
  • However it did allow the coveted Sunrise/Sunset feature for automatic events, which I liked
  • Another nice feature of the Staples Connect Hub is the web portal (LINK) which allows you functionality from your desktop, avoiding having to use your small phone when a larger screen might be in front of you
  • FINAL THOUGHTS:  From a feature standpoint, the Staples unit offered all the features I wanted.  And the new 2nd generation unit will add more radios, giving it more compatible devices to match the Wink.  It even proved to be more reliable of a device than the Wink.  However, the poor user experience (iOS app) makes me suggest this second, and the Wink first.  It just felt like this app was written “last year” — keep your eye on this, however.  This unit and the Wink will most likely go head-to-head as the two best and most common hub aggregators moving forward.  Once Staples updates their software UX to be a bit better, and the 2nd gen unit comes out, I’ll probably want to revisit this and the Wink for a shoot-out.  This unit works, it just isn’t as “pretty” as it could be under the hood.
  • HARDWARE TESTED:

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Logitech Harmony Home Hub

  • Fairly new to the market, this unit comes in two flavors (a remote with, or without, a display), and is geared to replace your TV remotes with a new remote that controls your lights AND TV/entertainment system
  • Only 3rd party switches it supports at this time are the Lutron, but the big issue there is that it requires their Hub (another $120, and another Ethernet port gets tied up)
  • Added integration with my NEST thermostat but lacks the ability to set it to Home/Away (only able to adjust temperature, or make it so auto-away never happens while sitting still watching TV)
  • Due to the cost of this unit (starts at $150 with basic remote) plus the Lutron hub needed for me ($120) it was a no-go, since at that price point the Revolv makes more sense ($299) which adds more benefits/features (although the Revolv doesn’t yet support the Lutron switches, but other options exist for me as you’ll see below)
  • At this point I returned the Philips Hue bulbs and was at a cross-roads as that left me with only Lutron hardware.  But before I would test their hub, I had other things to check out and compare.
  • FINAL THOUGHTS:  I’ve always loved Logitech for their Harmony remote series.  And in that capacity I liked their attempt to tie in the home lighting with your TV.  However, I was not a huge fan of the “style” of the interface (it is definitely focused on TV/entertainment system users).  Again overall a good attempt, but very limited list of compatible devices at this time for starters.  Given Logitech at the helm this device has potential, but at this juncture it just isn’t anything to get excited about quite yet.  Perhaps down the road… and again for MY needs, this fell short.

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Insteon Hub

  • Insteon’s hub uses their own dual-band protocols, but luckily there are a lot of options (SmartHome.com) — Still they are like Lutron, have painted themselves in a corner a bit with not using Bluetooth, WiFi, or even the more common standards already out there
  • Software interface is one of the better ones, on par with the Wink app for stylishness and simplicity– It lacks frills, but in a way I found pleasant — From a UX standpoint the Wink and Insteon at this point during my testing were my two favorites
  • NEST Thermostat support is listed and enabled, but sadly I was unable to successfully login/connect my NEST to the INSTEON hub during my testing (tech support claimed they never heard of the issue I had getting it to log into my NEST account)
  • INSTEON offers bulbs that are on-par in both price and features of Philips Lux (white & dimmable) though still more expensive than the new comer GE Link
  • You can group items by room, but you cannot switch an entire room on/off (this is due to the fact that you can place items in a room that are not on/off light-based devices– such as cameras, motion sensors, etc)
  • Supports the Sunrise/Sunset option for automation that I desire, as well as allows you to set how quickly lights will fade on/off in that scene (adds ambiance) (similar to Philips Hue fading features)
  • Like many of the other hubs it still lacks the location based (geo fencing) option that Wink & Revolv offer
  • Although they offer two-wire (non-neutral) switches like Lutron the quality didn’t seem as good– worse yet, the specs are sub-par as they only support incandescent bulbs which is silly in a world of CFL and LED bulbs
  • Testing the switches they worked with one set of LED bulbs (in one room) fine, though dimming performance wasn’t great.  Then in the 2nd and 3rd rooms I tested with other style/brand LEDs they didn’t work.  In one room the bulb would never go off entirely with a glow even when off.  And in the other room the bulbs, when on, flashed constantly.  Swapping in a CFL the same blinking/strobe issue occurred– only fixed by going to an old incandescent I had laying around.  For me this was unacceptable, and again the Lutron switches had worked perfectly in these same rooms, with these same bulbs.
  • FINAL THOUGHTS:  With INSTEON you become limited to their unique dual-band protocols, though many other hubs support their devices should you wish to expand down the road (ie: Revolv, and eventually Staples Connect Hub).  There are plenty of cool options out there for garage door openers, irrigation systems, and so forth.  But most are not as good as those devices who use whatever protocol they choose (ie: Rachio or Chamberlain that utilize WiFi).  And seeing as the in-wall switches didn’t work I can’t really suggest INSTEON– but your results may be better.  Overall I felt like INSTEON hardware was good for someone with a hands-on approach– but it failed to be a turn-key setup.
  • HARDWARE TESTED:

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Lutron Caseta – HUB

  • At this point I had returned everything except for all my Lutron switches/dimmers, my GE Link bulbs, and the Wink hub
  • Additionally, I purchased a Chamberlain MyQ garage door opener to play with (LOVE IT!), as well as a Rachio IRO Smart Wifi Enabled Irrigation Controller (see my initial thoughts on those two devices HERE)
  • Although the Wink was compatible with all of the items noted here, the Sunrise/Sunset provisions were still missing, the system was often slow/lagged when turning lights off/on, the interface needs a bit more polishing, there are some force close issues (iOS 8 – Activity button), and other odds/ends that made me wonder if going to a fully closed Lutron system wouldn’t be better for me – Hence the testing of this hub here
  • Setup was quick and easy, and connecting lights was a faster affair than with Wink (and more flawless)
  • Subsequently the operation of the lights to flip on/off was faster too — There is a 2-3 second delay on the Wink, versus a less than 1-second reaction times from the Lutron iOS app
  • Although the software here is nice, it lacks the feature set and depth of functionality that the Wink and INSTEON offered.  It was similar in that regard to the Philips Hue, although the interface here was far more intuitive than the Philips one
  • FINAL THOUGHTS:  Reliability here was great, with lights always performing as expected, no missed scheduled events during my testing, and generally speaking it just was a nice overall experience to use the Lutron Caseta app, even though it lacked the frills the others offer.  It supports the switches I have in place, and allows me to do what I want with my lighting.  Once the GE telligent bulbs are released it will do at a core level everything I want.  However with no integration with other 3rd party devices (thermostat, alarm systems, etc) it really is just for home lighting, blinds/shades, and not much more.  Where the Philips Hue was the best for just bulbs, this is the best for just switches.
  • HARDWARE TESTED:

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FINAL CONCLUSION

Let me remind you that what works for me MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU!  If you desire a single app that controls all of your devices, and if your list of connected goodies at home varies from mine, you may find a better match.  For example, the Wink & Staples hubs both work with the Lutron Caseta hardware, but the Revolv and SmartThings hubs do not yet.  Only some of the units support NEST (some unofficially, with more official integrations being added swiftly).  And only about half of them work with geo fencing features at this time.  (Even the Wink which offers it rarely works right).

And let’s not forget that the Apple HomeKit is coming, which may in some ways eliminate people’s desires for a smart hub.  My understanding of the HomeKit, however, is simply an easy way to control devices from your iOS product.  In iOS 8 you can already ask Siri to close your garage door and it’ll tell you no HomeKit link exists (yet).   Though you’ll be able to control devices on a discreet basis, you will still need a central hub to automate and schedule things based on each individual device.  In this case I feel like the units, such as the Wink, Staples Connect Hub and Revolv, may compliment the Apple integration.  Google and Samsung are also pushing hard for more software and hardware in this segment.

So in the end it comes down to three basic questions.  First off, what hardware do you want to automate in your home.  Secondly, what brand of those devices do you want (all the same, or many different ones).  And finally, do you want to be able to tie them in to work together?  If the answer is yes to that final question, then figure out what hardware you want and find a hub that works with those.  If all your hardware is a single brand, the manufacturer’s hub may work fine (ie: all you want are smart bulbs then Philips, or just switches and eventually GE bulbs, go Lutron).  Chances are you’ll find yourself wanting multiple devices, from various brands, and in that case the Wink Connected Home Hub is my top choice, followed closely by the Staples Connect Hub.  If you just want to do light switches, the Lutron Caseta Smart Bridge and accessories are my favorite from my testing time.

Remember that even with a hub to aggregate your smart devices, in most cases the app from the manufacturer won’t be something you can just delete.  It will still offer a richer deeper experience that you’ll need (such as setting up your thermostat schedule, or fine-tuning your irrigation system).  Having a hub that aggregates your devices isn’t just about having one application to run, it is actually more about being able to have them talk to and work with each other.  So that when you leave your house the lights automatically switch off.  Or when your fire alarm is triggered, all your lights turn on.  Or when a door sensor is tripped, a camera starts recording who entered.

Just like in a Hollywood movie, the goal here is artificial intelligence, by way of devices interconnecting (and a smart brain/hub).  All these devices that were once just appliances in our homes have become connected members of a larger family.  The hope is that the future is smarter, more connected, and easier for us to get on living our lives.  I’m excited for what is around the corner, aren’t you?

UPDATE (DEC/2014)- Please also be sure to check out my FOLLOW-UP ARTICLE HERE going deeper into review of many of the hardware pieces discussed above!
UPDATE (OCT/2015)- Even more updated after that is my SMART LIGHTING COMPARISON POST, where I talk about some of the best options for smart bulbs.  Check it out!
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Published by

Ari Jay Comet

Sharing my life experiences. Interacting with technology. Digital self-expression. Binary is black, white, and many shades of grey.

125 thoughts on “TESTED: Home Automation – Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, Lutron Caseta, Wink Hub, Staples Connect, Logitech Harmony Home Hub, and INSTEON Hub”

  1. Great reviews! I am looking to get started but have a big remodel a couple years out. My main concern is getting something that I can expand broadly and across product lines as I grow and most immediately, I want to be able to use my existing light fixture as a “dawn simulator.” So something with an ability to slowly “dim-up” over the course of about a 1/2 hour in the mornings – preferably at full spectrum. Any thoughts on what device(s) has this capability?

    1. From the testing that I did the only device I remember having the slow dim feature was the Philips Hue, where you could set a period (I think the max was 8 minutes) so come on gradually. That isn’t to say that the INSTEON Hub or others might not have it, but I don’t recall it. Right now I have the Wink Hub and the Lutron Caseta Hub, and neither of those have any adjustments possible for how gradual something turns on. You could do it manually, however, by making a different dim level every few minutes— it would be stepped, and a real pain to program, but it could be done.

      From a brand stand point, the Lutron hardware is great for scaleability — but they don’t offer much else beyond bulbs and blinds right now. So consider your remodel as you move forward but— no matter what you get, there are aggregators out there like the Wink hub that will help you keep it all working together nicely. Cheers!

  2. This is a fantastic work! thanks a lot. One question : have you tried the SmartThings hub? If so, please comment on it. Best regards

    1. That is one hub that I never tested. It looked nice but didn’t have the flexibility I wanted during my testing for the brand equipment I already had. And now it still doesn’t as I do not believe it supports my Lutron equipment etc

  3. I have the Hue Bridge and GE Link bulbs are compatible. A great way to add a few more lights with minimal expense. Now if only a switch worked with the Hue Bridge.

    1. Are you able to control the GE Link bulbs with the Hue bridge and the Philips app? Or are you using the Wink app to control those bulbs? From what I had seen in the tech news I had read, I thought the GE Link bulbs only were controlled by the Wink software/hardware. If what you are saying is true, that is a really nice way to get cheap ($15 each) bulbs that are dimmable but lack color. Hmmm… thanks for the info, and anxiously await your reply.

  4. Just an FYI. I recently purchased a WINK hub with several GE bulbs. It works very well. I have noticed a few issues with the scheduled on/off settings may not work every time but my personal work around is to set up an “off” or “on” command back to back. For example, Off at 3:00pm and another at 3:01pm. This way if one or two lights didn’t shut off automatically the first time it will usually get them on the second. Repeat for an “on” command. Also, Home Depot has been selling the Wink hub for $20 if you buy two $15 GE bulbs. This is very competitively priced at around $50 for a basic DIY kit.

    1. My direct contact with the support team indicates they have been upgrading some server side back end architecture. This should continue to improve the stability of the cloud and hopefully you won’t need a second scheduled item as you have noted above. For now though if that works for you good stuff!! Thanks for the feedback.

      I’m still happiest with the Wink above all other hubs. But even they need to continue to strive to resolve bugs, add more devices and so forth. We are getting there quickly too!

      1. Not at all. However, I had a lot of issues setting my Wink Hub up, so I had to reach out to support. They had a small core of early adopters who they gave early access to some of their new hardware, and I was included in that group. For what it is worth, I do not run a Wink Hub anymore, and would suggest the Smart Things hub over the Wink any day. As for my “job”, it has nothing to do with technology, nor home automation. My blog is something I do just for fun.

      2. Personally I only have a moderate amount of experience with those units, mostly the Echo. You can find my site’s review of the Amazon Echo here:

        https://arijaycomet.com/2015/07/08/amazon-echo-brings-voice-recognition-to-the-home-but-is-it-better-than-apples-siri/

        Overall I’ve heard from friends (who use the Vera) that it is a nice, powerful unit, but not for the faint hearted to setup, etc. Overall I think it offers a fair amount of integration, but isn’t quite as user friendly and straight forward for the mass consumer as it needs to be.

        That is where devices link the Smart Things or Wink hubs work better, being far more plug-and-play. Really depends on what brand devices you want to run and what you need to do with your hub. Every person’s unique home and desires will dictate what hub they might need (or hubs, plural, potentially). I’m using a Staples Hub right now, still, but expect that down the road I’ll be able to have NO aggregator hub soon, thanks to Home Kit.

  5. Enjoyed reading your review! Thanks for posting your experiences with these products. I ran across it while researching products that simulate sunrise and will integrate with NEST. Based on your review, I’m not sure which one will do both.. Looks like your favorite didn’t allow that feature, but can you use something like IFTT to program this feature?

    1. Right now I am using the Lutron hub since that provides the best UX and reliability. However I did like the Wink and Staples hubs, and the latter does sunrise and sunset features.

      However, NEST doesn’t integrate particularly well with any of these hubs since their new API just opened up. What exactly are you trying to do? IFTTT has some nest functions but not sure which. It is free though so maybe start there if all you want to control is your thermostat.

  6. Afraid the revolv hub is no longer sold and not being upgraded any further according to new owner Nest. A real shame.

  7. Can you comment on which if any of the Hubs will work if your internet is down? I live in an area where our internet is not very reliable.

    1. Zito- It will vary. I can say for sure the Lutron hub does NOT need internet to keep working locallt. But the Wink hub does. All of them need local wifi for the most part. It does vary though. Beyond those two however i cannot say for sure sorry.

  8. What a great rundown. Thank you. We are new to home automation. I have a Wemo LED Starter Set which includes the plug-in Link hub device which I received as a gift. I’ve added a couple addtional Wemo bulbs and a Wemo wall light switch. Can you tell me if these work with the Wink Hub? If so, do they require alot of tweaking to integrate into Wink? I can see us adding other home automation devices such as water sensors and garage door openers and must consider if we should abandon Wemo and move towards a more centralized hub as you describe in your review. Thanks again.

    1. Dave- Welcome to the fold. Home automation can be fun, but at times complex. Hopefully what you read here and find on other sites will lessen the burden a bit for you.

      To answer your questions – no, the Wink hub does not support WeMo. They do have a lot of support for third parties, though it is also interesting that just yesterday they announced many of their OWN, new products. While I suspect they may continue to carry 3rd party items, it also seems like Wink/GE are making a push to develop their own hardware that will work with their hub only.

      That is similar to how companies like SmartThings, peq, and others operate. You end up within their platform, stuck should you ever want to expand beyond that. So as you move forward and shop, consider how much integration you really want with those products.

      One nice thing about the Lutron Caseta hardware is that you can use it with the Wink and Staples hub, with no added hardware. You can also use it with the Logitech hub, if you do so with a Lutron hub too. From what I found the Philips hardware had the most broad spectrum of compatibility, though with certain 3rd party hubs the feature-set was more limited.

      I will say this– when it comes to things like your water sensor, or garage door openers, you really need to consider HOW you might integrate those into automation, if at all. In my testing since this above post one thing I’ve learned is that I don’t really want my garage door to open automatically– though I am okay with it alerting me if it opens/closes during restricted times. (the MyQ does that with no 3rd party app needed). But finding a water sensor that works with your hub, well, that depends. Wink just announced some that work, but SmartThings and other companies already have ones that work. And of course the standard ones that use Zigbee or Z-Wave would work on a wider spectrum of devices.

      There is no right or wrong answer– and sadly, there is no “best” answer right now, either. It becomes a mishmash of features and devices, and you have to really think long and hard about what you want, now and in the future, and perhaps consider whose protocols you want to become potentially married to. Companies like Logitech, Staples, etc are unlikely to release their own hardware at least anytime soon. But with Samsung snagging up SmartThings, WeMo staying within their own proprietary spectrum, and Wink having GE making them release proprietary stuff, those brands may prove to be more “closed up” down the road. Keep that in mind.

      If I can be of ANY further assistance with any specific items or questions please let me know. Ciao! – Ari

  9. I’ve been using an x-10 system for more than 20 years. It worked fine for me until I moved to Apple computers for my computing needs at home. Yes, it’s pretty basic using house wiring to carry the on, off, dim signal to the various modules I have place or wired in around my house. It was cheap , it worked nicely with PC based software. I have not found IOS software that “easily” plays with X-10. To your knowledge are there any innovations occurring in the X-10 environment?

    1. Jim, I too have had plenty of X-10 experience, going back to their early days when my father/I did a lot of tinkering at home 20+ years ago (I’m only 38, but recall teenage years setting up X10 devices, and having the neighbor complain we somehow managed to be affecting his lights, too)

      Nowadays the RF protocols (Zigbee, Z-Wave) have taken the spotlight, but Bluetooth and Wifi are also hot on that list. I think we’re going to see that all shake out a bit, but I’m not confident any protocol will become the standard. Sadly, I think X-10 is, for the most part, a dead protocol at least from what research I’ve done recently.

      If anything it seems more likely that devices will support BLE (Bluetooth 4.x) and Wifi as the main communication methods. This actually makes sense, as for example my smart wifi scale is wifi, but it could easily then be used to trigger lights or other items. That is where a central hub like Wink or Staples work great — and eventually where I think Samsung (Smarthings), Google, and Apple will shine.

      For what it is worth, though not cheap (yet), the Lutron Caseta switches are a great step up from X-10 style devices, but of course are limited to just lights and shades. If you’re a hard-core X-10 fan, check out the INSTEON items I have listed above in this review– they have a great selection and their attack reminds me a lot of the X-10 style of doing things.

  10. Ari, thanks for a fantastic review of multiple products. I too started 10-15 years ago with X-10 and have been able to use it for things like Xmas lights and some lamp, but often more trial and error. I also got pulled into Control 4 early on, but my dealer failed and despite multiple attempts and lots of equipment, it has never produced much more than very expensive lighting control and not very well at that. I’ve more recently moved to Insteon partially because of its ability to send X-10 commands (needs a real wired in-wall controller/device) and somewhat ease of use. But as you noted it’s a somewhat closed system with limited non-Insteon devices available. The basic Hub (V1) is being replaced with a smaller & more powerful Hub (V2) but I’m not sure if it will add any other protocols – Zigbee/ZWave/Wi-Fi/BLE but one can hope :). Still it’s pretty easy to set-up and deploy and their support via Chat or Phone is excellent. Have you had any experience with the ISY series products which seem capable of adding other protocol or other controllers which might give more flexibility to Insteon devices?

    Dave

    1. Dave– sorry but I do not have any ISY testing/experience at this point. My desires and needs for my home have been rather unique, and in some ways, limited. I don’t personally need a lot of sensors since I have an odd layout split-level, and an existing wired alarm system, for example. Still there are so many great products out there, it would be hard to experience them all. Sounds like you’re headed down a great path, and I wish you the best of luck there. I really did enjoy my INSTEON testing, but sadly the products just weren’t compatible with my older home wiring for light switches.

  11. Hey great post! Lots of really useful information! I have just moved to a new place and want to set-up a brand new home automations system and currently have no hardware. What would you recommend I use to control an alarm system, lighting, blinds and heating?

    1. For lighting and blinds the Lutron system listed above in my article is my favorite. When it comes to heating the NEST is my top pick. As for alarm systems that gets a bit more tricky. There are many options but my personal experience is limited to a professionally installed stand-alone. But you can easily piece together your own system these days too! Let me know if this helps or if you have any other questions.

  12. As others have commented, this is a great write up of what is out there. Just wanted to post that the Lutron Caseta Hub does support Honeywell WiFi thermostats and the Caseta Hub can be tied into a Alarm.com package. Personally I have stuck with the Staples Connect because it offers the ability to control the gadgets even if you lose Internet connection. Second because I can hit a Good Night button which locks the doors, changes the temp of the thermostat and turns off the lights. I can also comment that some time selections are different on the iOS, Android and Web interfaces. Keep us posted on your experiences.

    1. Great feedback. I’ve been doing deeper testing lately and will have a new post soon for more details on Wink vs Staples. Including the new Wink Relay, Schlage Connect door locks, and a web camera. Stay tuned!!

  13. Thanks for the response… It’s mind boggling when you start going deep in to all the different products on the market and the compatibles especially as I’m not the best at this sort of thing! Do all of the home hubs have an alarm function? And if so is it as simple as finding the correct cameras and sensors that are on the same frequency and then I will be able to control them through the app? Sorry for all the questions but its driving me nuts trying to work out the best platform to work with…

    1. Ash- Sadly, there isn’t really an “alarm system” out there that interfaces with a Home Automation kit per se. There are plenty of alarm-type devices you can buy for your home automation kit. But you need to really ask yourself what your goal is– do you want a stand alone alarm system, or do you just want some sort of camera, sensors, and lights that “trigger” based on things like motion, or doors opening?

      (Remember that a proper alarm system usually has a key pad, and will let you engage the alarm at your command– versus most home automation kits will have a “trigger” (i.e.”: door opening during certain hours, or motion sensed on camera) and an “action” (if the trigger occurs, make a noise, send me an alert, turn on a light, etc).

      In my opinion most of the devices I tested here in this article are not part of an alarm system, but rather a home automation kit and in turn, more gimmick. If all you want is alarm function, then you can go as cheap as $60-80 and get a nice D-Link or similar camera and have it email you / alert you when motion is sensed (you can even restrict what hours it alerts you.

      Her are two kits that might perform the features you want, in a “self contained” kit from a single manufacture:

      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GJW3SZ2/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00GJW3SZ2&linkCode=as2&tag=arijaycomet-20&linkId=7WNS42VK6PKL4TET

      and

      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GM0QFG0/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00GM0QFG0&linkCode=as2&tag=arijaycomet-20&linkId=ASIXRNIM7MJUWBSK

      INSTEON makes good stuff, but i wouldn’t say they are the best option out there for some features. For example, Dropcam and D-Link make better cameras. NEST makes a better thermostat. Lutron makes better light switches. Philips makes better smart bulbs. But if you want a single brand that you can piece together a kit and you want “alarm-like” capabilities, that is an option.

      But if you just want to be able to use triggers/actions then you should consider the Staples or Wink hubs (I’m doing a review right now comparing both deeper, and, spoiler alert, the Staples hub is better!) 🙂

      1. Hi, Ari,

        Great writeup! I’ve also looked extensively at the various hub options and settled on Staples, though the big missing feature for me is a much more extensive rules engine for features like “if the garage door is open for more than ten minutes than text me”. Hopefully it will be forthcoming.

        Regarding an alarm system, the ADT Pulse system is compatible with many of the components you’ve discussed. It includes a traditional alarm keypad with battery backup, but also supports Z-Wave for connected door locks, lights, outlets, cameras, etc, and has a pretty complete app and web interface (as well as voice control) or arming/disarming, controlling lights and other features, and creating rules.

        Regarding a thermostat, you might want to look at the Ecobee3. I believe it’s a better Nest – it has a great UI like Nest and is fully-connected, but also comes with an additional sensor which can be placed in another room to detect both temperature and presence, solving the problem of your thermostat not being located in a place where it’s proximity data is useful. You can add additional sensors as well – I have two thermostats (one downstairs, one upstairs), which two sensors attached to each, so I’m getting very good responsiveness for when someone’s home and where they are in the house for ensuring the temperature in the room they are in is suitable. I haven’t seen much in the way of Ecobee3 integration yet from the hubs, but they claim to have a fully open (wifi-based) API and older models are supported by SmartThings.

        Bill

      2. Wow Bill, awesome info. Thanks for sharing. I’ve wanted to check out the Ecobee3. Sounds like a nice system. Oh and i agree the same missing feature for garage opener in Staples. The Chamberlain had that and I miss it now.

  14. Fantastic work! Thanks a lot. I have a question:

    I have been using the last Logitech Harmony Home version (comes with hub) + Philips Hue Bulbs and Strips + the Hue Tap.

    I am looking for a better switcher than the Hue Tap that I can turn on the lights separately and with a few more features.

    Is the Lutron Caseta – SWITCHES/DIMMERS compatible with the Philips Bulbs?

    Thanks!

    1. Jose- technically any smart bulb works with any switch. Where the problem comes in is this: when you turn off most switches, the bulb has no power going to it. This renders the smart bulb “dumb” (unable to turn on via wifi, bluetooth, or whatever other method it employs wirelessly)

      There are companies trying to resolve this, such as Wink with their new TAP switch. And when you have a neutral wire smart switch they keep some power current to allow for the switch to work. With the Lutron switch the power is there too but less. I’ve not really tried any smart bulbs with my Lutron switch in the same “run” … but I assume it may work, for sure when on, but may be permanently off when off.

      Not sure if that makes sense or not. If you don’t need color, I personally think smart switches are far better than smart bulbs. If you didn’t realize this, when the power fails (outage) and then comes back, most smart bulbs reset to 100% ON full brightness. That is kind of annoying in my mind. I think there are many reasons for better switches, and less reasons for smarter bulbs.

      Let me know if you have any further questions! – Ari

      1. Hi Ari

        Thanks for your fast reply.

        Makes totally sense what you mentioned about the power.

        As I don’t really care about the colours I totally agree when you say “smart switches are far better than smart bulbs”.

        I will give a shot at the Lutron Caseta Plug-In Lamp Dimmer and see how it goes.

        Cheers!

      2. If you use a Staples Hub, you could use a Lutron Pico Remote to replace your switch (they make a kit) so that you can use the Pico as your Smart Switch in the wall. Low cost solution to using the Smart Bulbs and preventing the Power from being turned off. The only downside is you will need to go to the breaker each time you need to actually remove power from the light socket to say change the bulb. (That is just per standard practice to shut off power before touching anything electrical.)

      3. Thanks Ari.

        I am also wondering how many lights I could control with the Lutron remote control. It seems only two.

      4. Are you referring to a Pico remote? They can be programmed to control as many lights as you want!! I have one i keep at my bed that controls ALL, so in a panic i could turn them all on, or at night i can manually turn them all off.

      5. Jose- with the Stapes Hub, you are able to customize the Pico remote even more than just using the Lutron hardware. Allow me to elaborate.

        When you setup a Lutron Caseta Smart Hub, you can add switches (wired) or outlets (plug-in). Additionally, you can add Pico remotes that can control those lights/switches. In those cases, the Pico remote is assigned to those lights/switches, and the buttons work as you would expect. It can turn them on, or off. It can dim them up/down (where applicable). And the center round button is a preset level of dim that you save.

        HOWEVER… if you upgrade to the Staples Connect hub, you get even MORE features from the same Pico remote. Unlike Lutron (or Wink) where the Pico remote controls just lights you select, the Staples system works in a very different way. There are two different types of Pico remotes (the two button on/off style, and then the 5-button one you linked to). Staples allows you to configure a Lutron Pico remote as follows:

        On, Off, and Center (Favorite Button):
        – can perform ANY task you desire

        Center Dimming Buttons (Up/Down Fader)
        – Can DIM any light(s) you want

        So in the first instance, you can make it so that pressing the center/favorite button might turn on certain lights, off certain lights, lock a door, set a thermostat, or any other Stapes Connect device task they allow. There are a LOT of fun options here. I have one setup near my bed where the DOWN Button makes sure all doors are locked and turns off all the house lights. But the UP Button does NOT unlock the doors– it just turns on a few lights at dim levels as a “good morning” routine. I use this on weekends when my auto-on function does not run.

        For the center rockers that dim lights, those you can use however you want (or you can just leave them unset, so they don’t do anything). Again these features are added because you’re using Staples, which is more than just lights, but a hub that controls MANY items.

        You can read more about setting Pico remotes for alternate functions in this article, here:
        http://staplesconnect.com/2014/05/20/use-pico-remotes-to-start-activities/

      6. Great explanation! Thanks for your patience and time.

        Definitely the better way to go is getting the Pico remote and the Staples Hub!

        Cheers!

  15. Unfortunately I am not finding the D-Link Staples Connect Hub to buy anywhere else other than Staples.com.
    I am from Canada and them do not delivery it here.

    1. Really? That is VERY strange. Send me an email to arijaycomet@gmail.com if you want to discuss options. I’d be willing to help you out (purchase one, and ship to you). We ship UPS/FedEx all the time from my work here. I even have a few extra Pico remotes that I got by accident I can probably send your way. Drop me a line and we’ll figure something out for you to enjoy! -Ari

      1. Strange, isn’t it?
        I REALLY appreciate your help, but I have someone else to help me with that.
        I will contact you if necessary.

        Do I still need to use my original Philips Hub if I get the Staples one?

      2. You will need to keep that hub as that is required for their bulbs. Once the Zigbee radio is unlocked on the Staples hub, you could replace those bulbs with cheaper GE Link ones tho if color isnt an issue.

  16. Thanks for the review, it was extremely helpful. I had a question, I am looking at using Lutron devices, but I would like to use the switch for outdoor lights. I only found switches that had dimmers with them. Is that something that is available or can I somehow disable the dimmer abilty? What options do I have. Thanks in advance.

    1. For some reason most of the sites that sell this stuff only seem to carry the plug-in DIMMERS and the in-wall DIMMERS.. but believe it or not, there are indeed switches that do NOT dim… they just don’t seem to be in stock or carried by most of the box stores, etc.

      I’ve included a link below, here– I bought mine from Amazon, but I found a few other retailers too who had them. Anyhow, follow the link below for the “switch only” version (non-dimming). I’m using this for a few places that have non-dimmable CFLs or even in my basement where I have 4-foot tube fluorescent lighting. These work great in those applications. I have over a dozen of these non-dims, plus a half dozen dimmers, plus 3 plug-in dimmers, to complete my ~20 unit Lutron collection!

      Amazon link:
      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NCEMBIA/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00NCEMBIA&linkCode=as2&tag=arijaycomet-20&linkId=C3V5PPXG3T7AYGI6

      If you have any other questions let me know!

  17. Wow, awesome rundown of what’s out there. I’ve been using the Wink hub. There is a way to make it not rely on Wink servers, so it’ll work to control GE Link bulbs even if your internet connection goes down. It requires a bit of hacking, but so far it’s pretty reliable.

    http://goo.gl/HFsaE6

    Have you been able to use the Pico remotes to control the GE Link bulbs using Wink’s robot feature? The hacked method can use TV remotes to do it.

    1. During my testing with the Wink Hub I tended to find the Pico remotes didn’t do as much as I wanted. I’m not one to hack these kind of units, since I enjoy blogging to the more “average consumer” — and I feel that isn’t something most people want to do. Though years ago I would root my Android and play that game, nowadays I have an iPhone that is “stock” in form.

      I’ve made my switch to the Stapes Connect hub, and it does everything I want– and makes better use of the Pico remotes to do more functions! Thanks for the feedback, and best new year to you!

  18. Very thorough reviews. I’m finding the search for the Holy Grail to be never ending.

    My issue with the Wink Hub is it REQUIRES a an active internet connection as it uses their “cloud services” to operate. That’s the reason it is so flaky and unreliable. If they eliminate that connection requirement it would be much better and certainly more reliable… Especially when Internet goes down or they decide to monatanize the service.

    1. Yep agree. That was an issue for me using their service. I’m sure more fun toys will be announced this week at CES, and 2015 should yield new options. Thus far my Staples Connect is my personal favorite.

    1. Jack, that looks like a neat option. And the small size makes it quite attractive for many people. My only concern would be that it only supports the Zigbee protocol, but how many other Zigbee products will it handle?

      You get the exact same features, by the way, going with the GE Link bulbs here:
      http://gelinkbulbs.com

      So those two are nearly identical competitors. If you are looking for a cheap way to control bulbs either option is nice. Remember however that any Zigbee or Z-Wave product can ALSO (alternatively) be controlled by a smart hub from companies like Wink, Staples, and many others.

      So while I am sure OSRAM, a great name in the light industry, will make a great quality bulb— from a future expansion that is a nice “starting point too”— just remember that you may eventually want more from your home automation, in which case the “plug in” part of that kit becomes somewhat useless.

      If it were my money, I’d buy a Staples Hub. Then you can add Zigbee bulbs from any brand you want at any location. So you can get the OSRAM, GE, TCP, or any other compatible brand bulb because your hub works across the board. (Chances are any Zigbee product works with the OSRAM hub, tho)- Hope this helps!

      1. Thanks for the feedback. Still trying to decide on what to buy. I got a
        Nest Thermostat over the holidays. I’m wanting to add to the system.

        JB

  19. Thanks for the posts. Just found out I cant use the Wemo switch due to no neutral cable. This is all so confusing for me. I’m looking for a simple wireless single switch to turn on/off the fan on my bedroom but so far the only one I can find has two switches instead of one. Are there any options for single switches AND no neutral cable?

    1. The only switches I found & tested that would work for you would be the Lutron Caseta switches I mention in my post. You would need a hub to make that work too, but that is it. You’ll need to spend a few extra bucks then for both the switch and the hub to make it all come together.

      1. Thanks! The pictures on Amazon were so small I didn’t notice the switches were actually “on” and “off” buttons, I thought it was two switches. Will buy one to test it out and most likely use it throughout the house.

        Do you happen to know which bridge or hub can be used to connect these switches to a SmartThing hub?

      2. One last question :). If I get the Wink hub is that the only hub I need or will I also need to get the Lutron bridge? Sorry this is so confusing!

      3. No worries, happy to help. You do not need the Lutron bridge typically (there are exceptions to that such as the Logitech smart home system requires the bridge, etc).

        But in the example of the Staples or Wink hub, you just need the hub, and the switch. If you are just looking for a single gang on/off switch and hub here are the items you’ll need to get the job done:

        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NO7Z80S/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00NO7Z80S&linkCode=as2&tag=arijaycomet-20&linkId=IEJROKEXLPOUY7H7

        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002YVHYF2/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002YVHYF2&linkCode=as2&tag=arijaycomet-20&linkId=CKG4UEJHI55OBAFO

      4. I found both on Lutron’s website:

        http://www.lutron.com/TechnicalDocumentLibrary/369831_ENG.pdf
        http://www.lutron.com/TechnicalDocumentLibrary/369787.pdf

        Still not sure what the difference is with the exception that one says Caseta and the other one doesn’t. I’m guessing the Caseta version is the newest version. If you see something different (especially with the wires) from yours could you let me know? Just want to see if I need to cancel the order.

        Thanks again!

      5. Looks like just a branding difference. You’ll want to make sure the one you ordered is Caseta as that version is what works with wink hub. But I can’t really see differences from those PDF docs. Mine was the 5WS that I purchased for my home I believe.

      6. According to the comments on Amazon it does work with Wink but it shows up as a dimmer, which is really not a problem. I’ll keep the order. If anything I’ll return it. Thanks a million!

      7. Just wanted to give you a quick update. I finally received the switches (PD-5S-DV) and they work perfectly! I will be getting a few more soon.

        I also bought the six-pack GE Link lights and the Hue starter pack. I love and prefer the Hue lights because the GE lights look yellowish (warm), however Wink’s support is very limited (No shortcuts / robots / Groups ) so I’m not sure if I’ll get any more of those.

        Thanks again for all the help and direction to get my house (and myself) a bit smarter!.

  20. Ari, have you seen anything on the Apple Homekit System. According to what I’ve read it will combine multiple protocols including Insteon. Insteon even has a Hub but not much more information at this point:

    http://www.smarthome.com/insteon-2243-222-hub-pro.html

    see notes:

    http://www.cnet.com/products/insteon-hub-with-homekit/

    I also got my new Hub (Version 2) and it is much better than the original. Insteon is relatively unique in allowing multiple Hubs w/o conflicts, they become “slaves” or repeaters to strengthen the Mesh Network. So if the Apple Homekit provides the missing link to other non Insteon products, this might be quite powerful.

    Dave

    1. Dave – I’ve read a lot on the apple home kit. Some great articles are starting to surface there. My buddy sent me this one recently:

      http://9to5mac.com/2015/01/22/apple-details-homekit-compatibility-with-competing-home-automation-platforms/

      For what it is worth it sounds like Apple will allow third party hubs for certain protocols. But home kit and Apple TV won’t natively handle anything but wifi or Bluetooth. FYI.

      When I tested INSTEON switches they did not work with my home wiring because of the lack of a neutral wire. But I would love to see apple allow any other hub link in. We will see how it works. Nobody really knows yet how this is actually going to work from what I’ve seen.

  21. Hi Ari,

    Great review. Your hard work on this topic is appreciated. I visited my local Lowes and noticed Iris. Have you any experience with this product?

    1. Iris is a decent product, but when I first started playing around the Wink Hub sold at Home Depot had a larger spectrum of compatibility. Now that we’re further along I suspect the iris system might have advanced to match.

      However, it is my understanding that at this point the Wink Hub & Staples Connect hubs still offer the largest support of 3rd party devices, followed closely by the SmartThings hub. Based on user interface I’d still go for the Wink or Staples, the latter being quite a bit more robust and reliable, even if not quite as pretty to look at in the app.

      I’ve not personally tested the Iris because it had limited functionality for my purposes, and seemed a bit lacking in options compared to its competitors.

      1. Very cool. Thanks for the reply. Yeah I am getting info overload reading all the reviews and watching reviews on YouTube as well. Narrowed my options to SmartThings, WInk, and Connect.

        I am completely new to the home automation. So, your review was amazingly helpful. I have no specific security needs. I would just like to automate lights and doors. Maybe add on a garage door in the future. Ideally, I would love to be able to access the television and home theater from the hub/app as well.

        Just hoping to find a system that will grow with me and the needs of my family. I really like the sound of the geo-fencing as well.

  22. Unfortunately this comparison was all moot. You compared light bulbs and plugin modules that are less than useful in a real system. The only leading contender is insteon because it has the largest variation of devices. Things like wall outlets, generic I/O relays that can be repurposed for anything from garage doors, to automatic blinds, to water shutoff, freeze sensors, pool heaters, etc, and inline switches that can go inside lamps or false walls. These are the true automation devices. Nobody really cares about lightbulbs.. that’s the dumbest invention ever. Why control one light bulb when you could control a whole room of lights with a single switch? And it should be obvious why the switches need a common wire.. without that the switch itself won’t be powered. Without that you are wasting your time comparing.

    Admittedly the Insteon hub is junk, but there is the ISY-994i hub that bridges insteon, x10, and z-wave allowing the largest bridge compatibility across the top 3 out of the 4 (zigbee) to work together. This means I can use an x10 motion sensor to trigger an insteon light or a z-wave alarm. And across those 3 protocols, there are hundreds of actual devices that go beyond the plugin module and lightbulb that most other fly-by-night automation offerings like smartthings, wemo, ninjablocks, wink, etc. They are all novelty lightbulb toys that nobody will ever use. And they are all cloud based which means if they decide to go out of business, then so does your automation.

    Motion sensors, conditional programming, localized standalone server that doesn’t need a PC or cloud to run… this is real automation.. and only options like Vera and ISY can do it.. but ISY has better support for Insteon, and Insteon has the largest device catalog for more niche products, not just simple plugin modules. It also has dual band protocol so it uses powerline AND RF.. that doubles the reliability of any other system.

    Insteon and Zwave with the ISY-994i is already the clear winner.

    1. Dss- I’m glad you found hardware that works nicely for your needs and application. Welcome to my blog, you must be new here. As you may or may not have actually read my other posts, you may not realize this but my blog is run for fun. I don’t do this as a job, but as a hobby. As such the items I test are items I’m paying for out of my own pocket. Hence the test you see here was conducted with one very specific job at hand: to perform functions that mattered to me and my family.

      I’ve got no doubt that the Insteon hardware range is a broad spectrum. I dabbled with their hub, and it was decent. I’ve played around on their web site, and I even have their new Insteon 2243-222 Hub Pro on my list of items to maybe buy/test down the road. But since my home lacks a neutral wire as you noticed, the only light switches that worked for me were Lutron’s lineup. I agree, bulbs are silly, play toys, but they are also something that MANY people like and buy. There are also applications where a smart bulb does make sense for people, rather than modules.

      In conclusion, I’m happy to hear that you have obviously found the platform that makes you happy. My goal here was simply to share my experiences with people who might be interested, and make them aware of the limitations, offerings, and other such factors. Please also note that this article was written one half year ago. A lot has changed since then, and since everyone has a unique set of challenges and needs, buyers should always research their own desires, present and future, and make the educated decision that best suits their home automation needs. Good luck, best wishes- Ari

    2. DSS, there is definitely other systems by players such as Lutron, Leviton, Crestron, Control4 etc which do as much if not more than Insteon. I think here in this price category and knowledge of the DIYr plug in modules and light bulbs work. Take for instance, my home runs on a Lutron Radio RA2 system. I can open a garage door, turn on the fountain and have the gate open just by pressing a Home Link button on my truck’s overhead console. It does not mean I want to put that in a home I rent out. However a Staples Hub with Lutron dimmers and switches and even yes the occasional plug module work great and allows me to get more rent for the property. For others who have an apartment they may not be allowed to replace any in wall switch so plug in modules from GE/Jasco or Leviton or Lutron are great. The only place I have ever found the need for a controllable light bulb was where one switch controlled all the basement lights. Popped in the Smart Bulbs and now I can control what bulbs turn on without needing to open the ceiling or fixture. Much cheaper than an electrician.

  23. awesome review! I’ve been using the WeMo switches and plugs since they came out and automate a few lamps and our outdoor lights. I’ve been looking at replacing our standard potlights with either Hue bulbs or switches and I think I’ll go with a mix of both. IFTTT has support for Hue and Lutron and both are going to be supported by homekit which is awesome.

    Up until now, I’ve been using Siri to control my WeMo devices through IFTTT text message recipes. I say “tell the tv lights to turn off” and siri sends a text to the mobile number WeMo associates to that particular plug. Clunky, but it works ok.

    1. Be sure to check out my follow-up review of the home hubs, as well as my Lutron/HomeKit discussions. I’ll also soon be reviewing the Ecobee3 with Home Kit support. There are lots of cool HA options now and many support Siri, so of course I’ll be writing about those, too. Good luck with your setup, sounds great!

  24. Hi, I am new to home automation. Yesterday, I purchased a Cree Connected light bulb and a Wink hub. I have a standard light switch. I connected the Cree bulb to the light in my room so I could turn my lights on and off with my phone. However I am having a problem: I can only do this function if my light switch is turned to the on position. It won’t work if the light switch is off. So that means that my phone is really the only thing that can control the light bulb if I am utilizing the purpose of the Connected bulb. If I buy the Lutron caseta switch, is it a “2 way” switch? Meaning that if I turn the lights on with my phone, I could turn them off with the actual switch? I like the convenience of being able to turn the lights on and off with my phone but I still want to be able to turn them on and off with the actual switch. Is that possible with the Lutron caseta? Thank you so much! Please reply soon…

    1. Sam- EXACTLY! You hit the nail right on the head. This is why I’m a huge proponent of these so-called smart bulbs. If someone turns the wall switch off you lose all connectivity. So you’ll see I have many links here to the Lutron system and love that it works, as you called it, two-way. So if the switch is turned off at the switch you can still control it via the app remotely. This is what makes a smart switch superior to a bulb. Though they cost more at this present moment. As they gain traction hopefully the costs continue to come down. If you buy a Lutron switch it will work with your existing Wink hub. No other hardware is needed. Let me know if you have any other specific questions enjoy!

      1. So if I wanted to, I could return the bulb and just get a regular LED bulb? It would still work the same? And just to clarify… The phone could override the switch and the switch could override the phone…right? If the lights were on with the phone they could cut off with the switch or vice versa? I know the switches are expensive, but I was considering replacing ALL light bulbs in my home with the Cree Connected $15 bulb, but I could use the $8 bulbs that look more normal (I do not like the “vents” in the Cree Bulb, they stand out when the bulb is turned on if they are in a bowl fixture on a ceiling fan), and it could work that way? The bulbs don’t matter as long as I have the switch right? I know I seem a little redundant with my questions but I want to make sure I understand 100% before spending the money to have full home automation through Wink hub. Thanks!

      2. Everything you said above is 100% correct. Technically you can use any bulb but be careful. I’ve had good experience with all my bulbs with the Lutron smart switches. But some competitors smart switches only work with certain types of bulbs (LED vs CFL vs Conventional). Overall though yes you can use LED bulbs or other. And the Lutron switch. If someone turns it off at the switch you can still turn it back on at phone. Unlike a smart bulb. You’ll be happy and satisfied and be able to resolve issue you have. Go for it!!

    2. Use Lutron for regular LED lights. It works better that way. Smart lights are for those areas where there’s no switch, such as a lamp or porch etc.

      1. What Oz meant to say is “smart BULBS” are good for places with no switch or where the switch isn’t used often. However I would argue that smart bulbs rarely make more sense than a smart SWITCH– with really cost being the only reason to prefer a bulb for most consumers.

  25. What would you do about ceiling fans? Is there really a point in getting a switch for them too? Can you use the dim part on the switch to control the speed settings on the ceiling fan?

      1. Hey Ari Jay! I’m back with yet another dumb blonde question.

        So I have put the whole “home automation” concept on hiatus temporarily until I get all my ducks in a row. I actually have a few questions. All of the following questions are based on me putting the two-way smart light switch in every room.

        1) In my living room, we have two light switches on opposite walls. One side has both the light switch and the fan switch, while the other side has only the light switch. If I replace the switch in my living room with a smart switch for the lights, do I need to replace BOTH light switches on each wall or could I just get by with replacing one?

        2) I’m sure you’ve heard about Amazon Echo by now. I consider it to be like Siri for your home. Is that a good analogy? Would you consider this a good investment, or has the technology not developed enough yet? I think the whole idea of being able to just say “Alexa turn on my living room lights” is really really cool.

        3) Amazon Echo is supposed to be Wink compatible right? I’ve read different things from different sites. The cheapest two way switch I would consider buying is a Lutron, and is $45. I’ve read that for products to be able to be “commanded” through Echo, they must be Echo compatible as well as Wink compatible, which thankfully the Lutron switch is. Which is it? Does it have to be Wink compatible only or both Wink compatible and Echo compatible?

        4) Maybe I’m just being blonde on this question. Echo/Wink is supposed to be compatible with the Nest thermostat, right? So essentially, I could say “cool the room two degrees” or something like that?

        Thank you for helping me with this!

      2. Sam, those are actually all GREAT questions! And ones I’ll be happy to help you out with right now.

        1. When dealing with a multiway switch (also known as a 3-way switch), where you have two switch locations, each controlling the same light, you must replace BOTH switches as indicated by the smart switch manufacturer. Bottom line is this: you cannot replace just one switch. In the case of the Lutron you’ll end up using a Pico remote at the secondary location. To quickly and easily learn how this works, watch this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBhRWNtQki0

        You can educate yourself more about 3-way switches here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiway_switching — if you want to get more in-depth with the technical side of things. But the video above should really clear up how Lutron handles multi-location switches. In your case what I would actually consider doing is making the fan switch JUST for the fan (and just “close off” the light switch at that spot) (maybe mount the Pico remote with double-sided tape next to the fan switch, on the wall) — and then install the Lutron switch back at the other primary location. Just a thought!

        2. Yes, I’m really familiar with Echo. I actually have a few blog posts I’ve done lately about those devices you should check out here:

        https://arijaycomet.com/2015/11/16/tested-smart-home-automation-comparing-apple-homekit-vs-samsung-smartthings-hub-vs-wink-connected-home-hub-vs-insteon-hub-pro-vs-amazon-echo-vs-belkin-wemo/#amazon-echo

        and also check out this older view:

        https://arijaycomet.com/2015/07/08/amazon-echo-brings-voice-recognition-to-the-home-but-is-it-better-than-apples-siri/

        It is definitely a GREAT investment, as I’ll talk about more as I continue to answer your questions.

        3. Okay so here is how this whole “works with Amazon Echo” works for what you want to accomplish. You would need to get the Wink hub, and then whatever switches you want. At that point you can buy whatever bulbs/switches you want so long as they work with the Wink hub. Visit their wink.com site for a full list, but when it comes to switches I still prefer the Lutron. Some people prefer the Leviton brand products, and I can make suggestions there if you desire. Either way, you start off getting a Wink hub setup, add whatever smart home products you want from there, and that is the first stage.

        After that, you then link your Wink hub over to your Amazon Echo. MOST of the devices that are on your Wink hub are then suddenly accessible by voice using the Echo. I say most because certain devices, like door locks, and a few others, are not yet going to work. However, Amazon is working swiftly to add deeper integration, so in the near future ALL of your Wink devices would work. During my testing I was able to create a “Scene” on the Wink hub that locked doors, and a work-around with IFTTT allowed me to lock/unlock doors.

        You can buy the Wink hub here: http://amzn.to/1PXjdy3
        And then the Amazon Echo here: http://amzn.to/1PXjeCf

        Hopefully that covers that question — but i can imagine you’ll have some follow-up questions here. So please, ask away!

        4. Last but not least, NEST doesn’t yet work directly with the Amazon Echo. You can connect a NEST Thermostat to your Wink Hub, and you can connect your Wink hub with your Amazon Echo. But sadly this is one of those devices I mentioned that doesn’t integrate across the whole spectrum just yet. So, you can not say “Alexa, set the temperature to X degrees” — it just doesn’t work… YET! But that feature is something I am confident they are working on to get going ASAP, because it is a very hot topic of conversation for Echo owners. There are some work-arounds, though. What we managed to do was create an IFTTT recipe where if you said “Alex, trigger extra hot”– that would run the thermostat up to a pre-defined “hot” temperature. Something like that works great, but it only lets you set to a pre-defined specific temperature. Not “X degrees”… again, not yet!

        Learn more about ECHO with IFTTT here: https://ifttt.com/amazon_alexa
        Learn more about the NEST with IFTTT here: https://ifttt.com/nest_thermostat

        So right now the level of voice control with the Echo is good, but still lacking in some spots. Really I could summarize it to say that when controlling lights, the integration is PERFECT…. but when it comes to other things (door locks, thermostats, etc) — HomeKit w/Apple is better, but neither are perfect. And if I were a betting person, I’d expect that the Amazon Echo will be better, faster.

        Does this answer your questions? Did it create more questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask away– i love chatting about this stuff !!!! Hope this helps… 🙂

  26. Hi.

    I’m kinda confuse to select a particular hub.

    Basically, My X-10 CM11-A just died and looking to a similar setup (ie having a unit that store locally the programmation for my devices), not relaying on the “cloud” to store my configuration/have the cloud send my “trigger” to by example, turn on a light.

    Ex: Wink financial security is shaky… What will I do if it close? I do not have this issue with X-10 components.

    Of course, have to possibility to “play” from the cloud is nice, but only a nice to have in my case.

    I like the functions of my X-10 unit, “secure” to open the light at random time, etc.

    My requirements:
    1- Be able to programme it “locally” (Software/web console)
    2- Configuration stored “locally” (No relay of the Internet to have programmed task performed)

    Me too, I perfer that the “switch” rather than the bulb control the system.

    Do you have a suggestion for me?
    Buy another CM11A or CM15? 😛

    Thanks!

    Joël

  27. I forget, support more that a propritaty protocol. (Add flexibility to buy other components)
    Only for light control in my case. No alarm door opener, just lights! 🙂

    1. I’m not familiar with the platform you have right now. But most of the hubs out there are appealing to users by having a cloud. Though you may not want this, most consumers do so it has become standard. Some hubs store data locally for actions (my staples I believe does this) but you would want to check with each mfg for those details. Off hand not having any experience with your current hub I don’t really have a good comparison. Maybe the Vera might work for you? http://getvera.com

  28. Thanks for your inputs.

    Only thing missing from Vera is the support of ClearConnect protocol in my mind. :-S

    By the way, I kinda confuse with the fact that many (most) inwall module need an neutral.

    You said that you got an old house, is that mean that you only got 2 holes in your receptacle?! (ie no ground at all) That’s why to took Lutron controls that do not require neutral to work?!

    I check one of my wall switch. I see incoming current cable using a classic 3 wire (black/white/ground). Is that kind of cable is want is needed for neutral switch or need 4 wires? (black/white/red/ground)???

    In my case, I think they also link the electric smoke detector to that wall metal box. (I see 3 white cable linked together with a plug in the back of the switch box).

    And a black and Red cable connect to my light switch. (The red wire seems to be from the cable use for the electric smoke detector).

    I wonder if I indeed got the neutral so needed for modern z-wave/Zigbee inwall switch.

    Or you do you have a suggestion for a site that explain more about it? (electric wiring for automation module)

    Joël.

    1. Joël – wiring is not easy to diagnose remotely. You should use a multimeter to check your wires to determine the exact setup. And when in doubt, seek professional help to assist you. One person might have red wires that are hot, other house someone may have used red for common, or ground, or neutral. Again, a meter to check.

      The only thing I can answer about this question is that yes, there is no ground and no neutral wire needed for the Lutron Caseta in-wall switches. Their hardware is 2-wire only. This can cause some issues with certain types of bulbs, so consult their web site for details (they also have a user forum with great details there).

      In my home I have 25+ of these:
      http://amzn.to/1PprZji

      Those are in-wall switches that connect with just TWO wires. No neutral or ground is required. If you have 3 wires, the 3rd might be ground, or neutral. If you have 4 wires, they are probably ground PLUS neutral, but that might also indicate a 3-way or 4-way switch. So be careful!!

      In my home where most switches are stand alone, there were only two wires, and the Lutron Caseta works fantastic. Hope this info helps!!

  29. Thank you for the links.

    The Telligent bulbs I referred to were supposed to be in development with GE and Lutron and were basically GE bulbs with Lutron Clear Connect protocol built in.

    I recently purchased the Lutron Casita starter kit (2 in-wall dimmers and the 2nd gen hub) after reviewing many websites (including this one – great reviews!) and decided to go with it as I’m an Apple IOS user and it looked very straight forward to set up. I’m very happy with it and have since purchased 2 additional dimmers. I love the timers and Geofencing capabilities.

    So the ability to control individual lights seemed like the next logical step. Unfortunately Lutron Casita doesn’t have that capability. Lutron needs a bulb manufacturer to make bulbs with clear connect built in and that was apparently in the works with GE but no product has come to market yet.

    1. Though I agree with you, smart bulbs in general are a gimmick to me. Other than their ability to change color they otherwise serve no purpose. Plus in smart bulbs they become dumb if you turn off the switch. However if a smart bulb is used with a smart switch you could turn switch on first. But as no hub I’ve seen allows for a programmed delay, you can’t actually make this work. Plus why would you? At $40-60 per bulb plus $50-60 per switch the pricing quickly gets obscene. People love the idea of color changing bulbs, but once the novelty is gone, smart switches make far more sense in the long term. Both cost wise and practicality.

  30. Ari,

    I have read this blog post and ALL comments. It is so helpful as I wade through all the options.

    I want to control 25+ lights. I am not interested in smart bulbs and plan to do it all with in-wall and plug-in dimmers. I have a 4th generation AppleTV, an iPhone, and an iPad. I have Sonos and Wally. I have a hard wired security system. My house is 4,600 sq. ft. new construction and neutral wires shouldn’t be an issue.

    My main interest is lighting, but I expect I’ll want to venture into thermostats and door locks in the future. I am trying to decide between Lutron Caseta and Insteon. Physical buttons are important to me because I do not want to rely on my phone to turn lights on and off. Quality and reliability are important. Scenes are also very important. Three questions:

    1. I am leaning toward Lutron Caseta because it seems to have higher quality switches and a very good interface for lights. I want something that is future proof and it seems that Lutron will continue to be around/work with future control systems. Do you agree?
    2. Can you help me understand Lutron scenes? I understand that I can switch from scene to scene in the app. Can I also switch using the Pico remotes? For example, I am in the Movie scene and I go to bed. Can I then press a Sleep scene button that switches some lamps off, changes dim level of others, and leaves some on—All from the Pico remote? Could I do this on the 8-button remote as well?
    3. You seem to really like the Staples Connect for Caseta and Pica, but I know that post was from many months ago and things change so fast. Do you still recommend the Staples Connect for Lutron Caseta control? Would that be instead of the Caseta Wireless HomeKit enabled Smart Bridge or in addition to it?

    1. Brandon, thank you for visiting the site and the wonderful questions. I’ll do my best to answer all of the, but if I fail to miss a point or two let me know. I love questions!!

      1- Having tested the Insteon hardware more recently (see my recent HomeKit vs… blog post from a month or two ago) I can say definitively that the Lutron Caseta hardware is FAR superior. It is more reliable when turning lights on/off, and overall just feels more polished. So if you’re deciding to buy switches with future-proof in mind, Lutron Caseta is definitely the way to go.

      3- Yes, I am answering #3 before #2, because it makes sense to do so. Here is the issue, if you want to use HomeKit, and since you listed a bunch of Apple devices and have an Apple email address, I’m going to guess you want to use voice/Siri, then you should NOT purchase a Staples hub. Lutron Caseta switches can only work with / be controlled under a single master controller at one time. So if you use Staples, then you can do more “things” with the Pico (See next paragraph), but you won’t have any Siri/voice control. My suggestion, based on the data you supplied, is to forgo the Staples hub and go directly to the newer, Siri-capable SmartBride w/HomeKit from Lutron. When I was in love with Staples Connect, it was before the HomeKit hub came out. You can also find newer blog posts here on my site where I test and showcase these HomeKit features.

      2- Finally, because of the fact I’m suggesting the HomeKit hub, this means you are using the Pico remotes in only the fashion Lutron intended. Unlike the Staples Connect, where each button on the remote is actually going to “set a scene” (which can turn some lights on, others off, and others to pre set dim level, or even control other items)– that is NOT how the Lutron Smart Bridge system works. With the Lutron, you can set a Pico to control only devices they offer (their in-wall switches, plug-in dimmers, or window shades). So for example, next to my master bed on my nightstand I have a Pico remote. I’ve set that remote to control ALL of the lights in the house EXCEPT for the other bedrooms. When I go to bed I can hit the OFF button, and it turns off all the lights in the house (Except those bedrooms). Why did I omit those bedrooms? Because if I wake up in the middle of night and in a panic want to turn on the lights to go investigate something, and I hit the ON button on that Pico, it’ll turn on to 100% all the lights that remote is told to control. I don’t want to wake visitors sleeping, or my daughter, so I excluded their rooms. However, in a case (fire, etc) where I might want their rooms lit, I have a voice scene with Siri, that turns all those on. Or you can simply say “Hey Siri, tun on all the lights” and that works, too.

      Another thing to understand is that by having the Lutron hub you get their level of integrations, but still maintain the HomeKit system. For example, with the Lutron app, they integrate with devices like the Nest smart smoke detectors. So in the case of a fire it will run a preset emergency scene that you can create. In that case perhaps you want bedroom lights at 50% and hall/other lights at 100%. Whatever you want, there is a scene for hat, and Nest & Lutron intact with each other (Lutron also works with Honeywell, Ecobee, and others).

      Hopefully this answers your questions. For quick/easy reference here are some quick links to the products I’d suggest:

      Lutron Caseta In-Wall Dimmer Switch
      http://amzn.to/1T6pj0y

      Lutron Caseta In-Wall Dimmer Switch, packed with a Pico remote too!
      http://amzn.to/1QOGEYs

      Lutron Caseta In-Wall On/Off Switch (use where you don’t need/want to dim, on/off only)
      http://amzn.to/1QOGHU9

      Lutron Caseta Smart Bridge with HomeKit
      http://amzn.to/1T6ptoF
      (you can buy this as part of a kit bundled with some switches if you prefer)

      Lutron Caseta Plug-in Dimmer (great for lamps, setting your fish tank lights on/off at a certain time)
      http://amzn.to/1QOGMHu

      Lutron Caseta Pluh-in Dimmer bundled with a Pico remote
      http://amzn.to/1Rfjz3b

      ** Note that even if an item comes with a Pico remote, you do NOT have to use that remote with THAT switch. It just gives you a remote, but you are still able to program each Pico remote to do only the items you want. So if you want a Pico for one task, but it came bundled with a switch that is another location/task, that is fine, as they are not permanently connected and can be programmed to work independently of one another. Cheers!

  31. Thanks very much, Ari. Your answers are so very helpful. I will move forward with the Caseta system and the Caseta Smart Bridge with HomeKit. A few follow-up questions:

    1. Do you know anything about the Caseta Pro kits? Are they available to consumer/worth purchasing? See link below.
    http://www.casetawireless.com/Pages/ProProducts.aspx

    2. Following your example, I could have an “all off” Pico in the bedroom that excludes the porch lights because they are following a schedule and I don’t want them turning off. True?

    3. Say I set a Pico to turn on specific living room lights, kitchen lights, and family room lights. Will it remember the individual intensities for each dimmer?

    4. I notice that you typically link to Amazon for products. Is that where you tend to find the best pricing on Caseta?

    5. Have you used the 4 Button Pico Pro wireless remote? If so, do you like it as an alternative to the regular Picos? See link below.
    http://www.amazon.com/Lutron-4-Button-Wireless-Remote-PJ2-4B-GLA-L31/dp/B01AANIVXE/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454855573&sr=8-1-fkmr2&keywords=Lutron+4+button+Pico+pro

    1. Brandon, here are some follow-up answers, to your new set of questions:

      1 – I’ve not really looked into them (Pro kits) as the cost is more, and they don’t do a great job clearly stating what “other devices” they work with. It does say it can interface with some alarm systems and other devices, but they aren’t super transparent about how that works. I’ve not yet had a need that directed me to the Pro systems, but if you’re starting from scratch and have the means, the extra cost may pay off down the road. You may want to reach out to Lutron direct to get more transparency on the differences of the non-Pro to the Pro hardware.

      2 – True. Again you would assign your Pico to control lights, but simply not include the porch. However, remember that the Pico will then also work as an “all on” for the same lights you just assigned them to. You cannot control the buttons on the Pico as a scene, but instead simply to turn on or off the lights to which that Pico has been assigned to control.

      3 – There are multiple versions of the Pico (as you show in #5). You can buy a Pico remote that is just an on/off style switch, or one that has dimmer buttons plus a center round “saved” setting button, and then the 4-botton version you linked. On my nightstand I have the 5-buton one (on, off, dimmer up, dimmer down, and the round button in the middle). The purpose of that round button is to essentially work “like a scene” as you talked about. If you long-press that button is saves the settings of the lights as they sit right now. So in truth, though a Pico can NOT run a scene, it CAN run a preset level for the lights in the house. To learn more watch this video: http://www.casetawireless.com/pages/support.aspx — click on the Chapter 4 section, to learn more!!

      4 – As noted in the left sidebar, Amazon provides me a modest kick-back for items that are purchased from the links I supply. When you use a link that I provide there is a small tracking # in it that provides Amazon with data to realize that the consumer (you) was directed to purchase from Amazon thanks to my blog. They give me a small amount of revenue for this business, which provides me a chance to perpetuate this blog. More than 95% of the revenue that I earn from Amazon is turned right back around into purchasing new products for this blog/website. That helps me purchase my own items, rather than receiving free items, which allows me to remain impartial to the items that I test and review. Also, I am personally an Amazon Prime member, so I love to buy from them with free two-day shipping on many items. You may find the products less expensive elsewhere, but if you do purchase from Amazon by using the links I provide here, it will help this site! 🙂

      5 – I’ve not personally used that 4-button remote. I have a bunch of extra/spare 5-button remotes that came bundled with switches I bought that I thought I’d use, but never do. I’ve come to find that, thanks to my Apple Watch and Siri/HomeKit, I really prefer to use my voice to control scene and special settings. It is easier to bark a command at my wrist “Set the Watch TV scene” and have it work, than have to go find a small remote that could get lost somewhere. But everyone has their own preference for sure, there. I would probably prefer the 5 button Pico best, because of the small center button that can restore a saved setting, which WOULD give you the ability to turn on some lights, off other lights, and dim even other lights.

      Cheers! – Ari

      1. Thanks again, Ari. I placed my first order with Amazon this morning using your links. Hopefully you’ll see that order.

  32. My system is installed and running well. I am using a combination of wall dimmers, lamp dimmers, and pico remotes. All are connected via the smart bridge and work well with my iPhone and Siri. I am very pleased. I have a couple of more questions I thought you might be able to answer:

    1. Geofencing: It works very well on my iPhone, but everything I read seems to indicate that it does not work for more than one person. What has been your experience?
    2. Pico Remote: Have you ever tried syncing it to the garage door opener buttons that are on the rear view mirrors of a lot of cars today?

    Brandon

    1. Brandon- here are some answers:

      1- Geofencing, by design, only works for the owner of the home. As such you can share access to your home (so that others can use Siri), but they cannot create/use geofencing. They can, however, use scenes that were created by the home owner. So though you cannot easily allow their presence to make changes, you could setup a scene called “i’m leaving” or “I’m home” and allow the other users to command Siri to run those scenes for them.

      2- I’ve never heard of such a feature. Based on the cars my wife/I own, there would be no real practical use for such a thing, but this sounds interesting. Good luck with this feature!

      PS: Another aspect to the first question– all of the switches in my house are Lutron. Although two users cannot geofence a Home within the parameters of HomeKit, two separate devices can both use geofencing within certain other apps. For example, Lutron’s own lighting app, or IFTTT, just to name a few. In this instance, my wife is able to have lights turn on (or off) based on her presence (or departure), using the geofencing features built right into the Lutron app. This doesn’t change any of the HomeKit functionality, it just works in tandem. So depending on what devices you are working with, that might be a simple “work around” of sorts, which is what we do here.

      1. Good tip RE: geofence work around. I found the IFTTT recipe, but it only lets you trigger one single light when you arrive home. I wish it let you trigger a scene. There is a recipe to trigger a scene when you leave, but not when you arrive. Strange.

        The rear view mirror button is the one that replaced your garage door opener. I’ll try it with a Pico to see if it can learn the Pico remote.

        >

  33. Hi

    Just one more question. In my living room, i have a light switch on either wall. If I was planning on putting a smart home switch by leviton decora, do I need to put a smart switch on both switches or just one? Thanks!

    1. There are various answers to your question here, depending on how your wiring exists right now. What you are describing sounds like what is called a 3-way switch. That is to say you can turn on the load/lights at either location. Certain “smart” switches can be wired to work in this scenario, but some cannot. You typically can handle this by either removing one switch (and just put a blank cover plate there), or you can run TWO smart switches, one at either location.

      My experience with this has been exclusively with the Lutron Caseta wireless system. Right on their web site is a video, explaining how to install two switches so that you can handle this. One switch is a Pico wireless, the other is an actual, wired switch. In the case of Leviton Decora, I cannot speak from experience as to how that works. You’ll need to reach out to them direct, or visit their web site, for further details. I’m certain it can be done, but I don’t have the personal hands-on experience to provide you any further details. Cheers!

  34. Brilliant reviews, thanks for that. I’m looking at using one of these solutions for swapping out globes on filming locations. Cheers!

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